Canal Facts - Oxford Canal
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Tue Mar 4, 2014 at 11:19am

Oxford Canal

The Oxford Canal is a particularly scenic canal which meanders through the rural and picturesque scenery of Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire countryside. It is abundant with wildlife and scattered with pretty villages and plenty of pubs, because of this it is very popular with holiday makers and boaters.


The Oxford Canal is 78 miles long and links Oxford with Coventry.  It connects with the River Thames at Oxford, the Grand Union Canal at Braunston and to the Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction. The maximum sized boat able to navigate the Oxford  is length 70ft, beam 7ft, draught 3ft, height 7ft, with 46 locks along it's route.

The Oxford Canal at Napton Locks


The canal begins at Hawkesbury Junction and runs south through the centre of the town of Rugby, where it passes through the 250 metre long Newbold Tunnel. It continues on to Braunston where the Oxford connects with the Grand Union Canal, sharing a five mile stretch until the Oxford continues south towards Oxford and the Grand Union north towards Birmingham.

Bridge 116 Near Napton

At Napton on The Hill the canal meanders around the bottom of the hill and a windmill can be viewed perched on top of the hill.  Here there is a flight of nine locks ascending. The canal winds on to Fenny Compton and Claydon before reaching the historic town of Banbury.


At Banbury the the canal goes right through the town centre, and you can moor up right in the centre of the town right next to the shopping centre. Here you can see the historic Tooleys Boatyard and see the Banbury Cross that was in the nursery rhyme 'Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross'

At Oxford the canal has connections to the River Thames; Dukes Cut leading to Kings Lock and Isis Lock and Sheepwash Cannel which leads to an unusual river crossroads at the Thames called Four Rivers. Just below Isis Lock the canal ends abruptly near Hythe Bridge in central Oxford.

Another View of The Canal Locks At Napton

The History Of Oxford Canal

Construction of the canal began in 1769 and the canal was built in several stages taking more than twenty years to complete due to financial constraints.  Construction was supervised by the famous engineer James Brindley and was assisted by Samuel Samcock who went on to complete the canal after James death.  The final section of canal into the centre of Oxford was at last ceremonially opened on January 1st 1790.

The canal became one of the most profitable and important transport routes in Britain, taking coal and stone from the Midlands, until the Grand Junction canal was opened bringing a more direct route to London in 1805.

In 1937 Baron Nuffield bought the canal basin at Oxford, filled the basin in and built Nuffield College.

In 1948 the canal was Nationalised becoming part of the British Waterways, now known as the  Canal and River Trust.

Since the 1970's pleasure boating become popular and replaced the old working boats, and Oxford Canal is now a thriving place for narrow boaters to holiday.